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Liverpool news: Is Klopp responsible for Reds’ injury and re-injury issues?

Trent Alexander-Arnold Dominik Szoboszlai Liverpool
© IMAGO

A few weeks ago it felt like Liverpool fans could finally approximate when Jurgen Klopp could get his first-choice XI onto the field but the club is once again reeling from adverse injury news.

Reds had been looking forward to getting Mohamed Salah – among others – back on the field in time for the Carabao Cup final, with three other prizes to be disputed between now and the end of the season, including the Premier League title.

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Liverpool have a job on their hands in holding back Manchester City, who are now breathing down their necks at the top of the table, and their task has been made all the more difficult with the latest news out of Anfield.

Having only just welcomed back the talismanic Trent Alexander-Arnold following a knee injury suffered against Arsenal in the FA Cup, this week it was reported that the 25-year-old would miss the Carabao Cup final. He has suffered a recurrence of the knee injury which kept him out for two weeks in January.

Alexander-Arnold setback

Alexander-Arnold’s deputy, Conor Bradley, has played well in his absence but the right-back-cum-midfielder has been among the Reds’ best players this term and they can scarcely do without him in the long run.

He made his initial comeback as a substitute during the FA Cup win against Norwich at the end of January, playing around 24 minutes, before another appearance from the bench against Chelsea in the league.

Jurgen Klopp Liverpool
© IMAGO – Jurgen Klopp Liverpool

Klopp opted to start the full-back in the matches against Arsenal, where he played nearly an hour, and Burnley, the latter of which saw him withdrawn at half-time. Optimistic views that his substitution was precautionary have now been altogether scuppered with the club resigned to losing him for multiple weeks.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Hungarian reports of a fortnight ago that Dominik Szoboszlai was set to miss seven to eight matches – including the Carabao Cup final – now look bang on the money.

The Telegraph is now reporting that he too will be out for longer than initially expected, having picked up an injury in the lead-up to the Reds’ catastrophic defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates.

And like Alexander-Arnold, the blow for Szoboszlai is a recurrence of an injury he suffered earlier in January.

Szoboszlai out until March

The Hungary captain was replaced during the game against Newcastle on New Year’s Day, having been one of Liverpool’s most frequently used players to that point, and went on to miss games in the Premier League, the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup.

He started – and scored in – the game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on January 31 but has since missed the games against Arsenal and Burnley in the league.

The manager stated before the Arsenal game that it appeared to be a flare up of his previous hamstring injury but no time frame was placed on his recovery.

Then the scoop appeared in the Hungarian media with it all but confirmed that the 23-year-old is now set for another extended spell on the sidelines.

With huge games looming, the twin injury blows could hardly have come at a worse time for Liverpool and Klopp.

Factor in that Thiago Alcantara was also injured in the Arsenal game – during a five-minute cameo – and you can sense that injuries are beginning to bite hard again.

Thiago trained for the first time with his team-mates this season prior to the Chelsea game and less than a week later he was back on a Premier League pitch. That despite Klopp telling a press conference on the day after his comeback that “he needs time”.

Thiago Liverpool
© IMAGO – Thiago Liverpool

Now, with his latest injury, it may well be possible that he has already played his last game for Liverpool.

Question marks over Klopp

Question marks are hanging over Klopp and his staff over how three players making their returns from injury could so quickly be injured all over again and, in the case of two of them, suffer the exact same problem.

There have long been concerns raised over the scale of the injury problems blighting Anfield, right since the beginning of Klopp’s reign.

Commentators observed that his new “gegenpressing” style was putting added strain on players and that in the long run, it would end up burning players out.

In the German’s first season he faced scrutiny for his methods. Liverpool legend Graeme Souness called him out following a match against Stoke in January 2016, which saw them lose three players to injury.

“It’s a difficult balance coming in after 11 games to push the players when they’re playing two, maybe three games a week, weekend, midweek, weekend,” he said. “I think it’s a hard thing, a big ask to do that and not suffer the problems they’ve suffered.

“The sports medicine people, they’ll be tearing their hair out. They’ve got to manage that better because that can ruin your season.

“Hamstrings are not two or three days out, they can range from 10 days to six weeks so a hamstring is the one that players do not want.”

The manager, on the back of that match, admitted that he would need to adapt his way of working to ensure his players stayed fit.

“Maybe we would have to change our training methods,” he said. “I am responsible certainly.”

Trent Alexander-Arnold Liverpool
© IMAGO – Trent Alexander-Arnold Liverpool

Things reached a quite farcical nadir in the 2020-21 season when Klopp could barely lay his hands on a centre back.

Liverpool’s “murderous” programme

At the time a former Liverpool striker, Erik Meijer, told De Telegraaf: “It’s all not quite right at Liverpool at the moment after two fantastic years.

“Apart from the absentees, that also has to do with the enormous burden the team has had to cope with.

“Klopp’s way of playing requires a lot from a player group and it’s a murderous programme that a team like Liverpool has to go through.”

The fact that players were getting re-injured was pointed out in October 2022 by Damien Delaney on Irish television, where the former Crystal Palace mainstay was providing punditry.

“There seems to be a constant revolving door of a player getting fit, playing two games, and then he’s out again,” the former Irish international said.

“It’s three, four, five players out for a couple of weeks and back in. The manager and his coaching staff have to bear some sort of responsibility for that.”

Klopp himself has admitted to going against the advice of his medical team in order to get his players back into action quickly.

Diogo Jota scored the second and final goal on Boxing Day against Burnley, having been sprung from the bench, but the manager revealed afterwards that he had “sneaked” the striker into the squad despite the misgivings of his medical staff.

“We sneaked him in somehow on the squad list because he trained only twice and the medical department wanted to give him extra training and I said he can have that in Burnley,” the 56-year-old told the press.

”We try everything to make everybody fit as quick as possible”

He also provided some insight into getting players back into his team, telling the media following a Champions League game against Midtjylland in October 2020: “The players who are now injured, we cannot use them on the first day of being fit again, or not injured anymore.

“They need a proper buildup for the rest of the season, that’s what we try.

“And it’s this juggle all the time between the fit players, how much can they play, and when can we use the others again.

“We are really interested in that fact, so you can imagine we try everything to make everybody fit as quick as possible.”

Liverpool are entering a crucial juncture of the season, which of course will be Klopp’s last in the Anfield hotseat. He will be facing this spell of matches without some of his most important players in Szoboszlai and Alexander-Arnold. Even Thiago could have been a useful resource later in the season had he stayed fit.

Instead, the Reds will again be forced to plug gaps with massive matches arriving at Wembley against Chelsea and in the league against Man City.

Whether their injury problems will subside remains to be seen. However, on the evidence of the last nine years, not much is likely to change.

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